Draft Day is upon us O’s fans. Tonight at 6pm is the 2009 MLB First Year Players Draft, being televised on the MLB network. This year’s draft certainly doesn’t seem to be as loaded with talent as last years and there does appear to be a significant drop off after the first 3 to 4 picks. I know not everyone cares about this because some baseball fans don’t care much for the minors, so they care even less about guys who aren’t even there yet. Having said that, the draft is a big day for teams like the Orioles. We can’t afford to operate with big payroll like some of the teams in our division. If the Orioles are going to return to their winning ways of old they are going to have to do it with a strong farm system, good drafts, and smart spending to supplement their homegrown talent.
The farm system has taken a big step forward over the last few years and some analysts now rate it to be a top-10, even top-5 system in all of MLB. This year it appears the O’s will be targeting an arm again for the 5th overall pick. The top pick will be Steven Strasburg, and there is also no chance that the top college bat Dustin Ackley falls to the O’s at 5 like Matt Wieters did in 2007. The top 4 picks by most counts will most likely be Strasburg, Ackley, Donovan Tate, and Tony Sanchez. This leaves the Orioles with many choices at number 5 and they appear to be thinking over quite a few. There are rumblings they will shy away from Scott Boras clients which will rule out Grant Green, the top shortstop prospect in the draft. It is no secret the Orioles are very thin in infield prospects but I am of the opinion they should not draft for need. Tyler Matzek, considered the top prep arm available has apparently voiced his desire for a pretty outrageous bonus, so I believe that will rule him out as well. Aaron Crow is most likely ruled out for the same signability issues, big bonus demands and he is also a Boras client. You may remember him as the guy who passed on signing with the Nationals last and has spent the past season in Independent leagues. The O’s appear to be considering Zach Wheeler, Alex White, Jacob Turner, Mike Leake, and there have also been rumors they really like Matt Hobgood.
If the first4 picks go the way mock drafts have projected I believe Matzek would be the best available talent remaining and he would be the guy I would love to see the O’s go after. Pay him what it takes to get him signed and lets take the best player available. I do understand they have budget concerns however and I think they will want to get someone who will be easier to sign and get them playing sooner. My prediction is the O’s will take Zach Wheeler, the high school righty from Georgia with the 5th pick. I will be paying close attention to the rest of the draft however, with money saved in the first round they may be able to find some talented guys later in the draft and pay them over slot to take a chance. We could find ourselves with some later round talent such as Jake Arrieta, Oliver Drake, or Bobby Bundy.
Quick scouting reports on all the draft’s top prospects can be found here.
See you at the Yard.
~Det. Tom Ludlow